Local bakers compete in gingerbread competition on national TV

PITTSBURGH — If your family has built a gingerbread house, you know it’s not easy, so you can imagine the pressure a local team felt when they were on national TV this week in a gingerbread competition!

“We had to build a giant gingerbread display that incorporated lights,” said Marla Mae Harvey.

She and her friend Daniel Wilson were recently on an episode of the Food Network’s Holiday Baking Championship: Gingerbread Showdown. They’re both local bakers.

“I love Pittsburgh, I’ve worked in the food scene so I’m really excited to represent everybody that works in the restaurants in Pittsburgh,” said Marla Mae.

The team had their love of Pittsburgh in mind when they picked the theme of their gingerbread: a greenhouse.

“We both love going to Phipps Conservatory and seeing the plants so that was our inspiration.”

The Gingerbread Showdown pits three teams against each other. They have 10 hours to create a gingerbread house that is 90% edible. But midway through taping, the producers threw in a twist.

“Which is where I came in,” said Marla Mae. “I was helping Daniel with the house but then I had to stop everything, start baking, and incorporate my baked goods into the display.”

The challenge was to use Pate a Choux dough, which is a very light pastry dough. Marla Mae made croquembouche trees and filled them with a Tres Leches filling.

After a week of filming earlier this year, it all came down to the moment they found out they won!

“It was crazy,” said Marla Mae. “We both cried a little.”

The duo won $10,000, which they agreed to split. Marla Mae is hoping it will help get her baking business off the ground. She started it when she was laid off from a restaurant during the pandemic.

I’m hoping in the future to be able to afford a commercial kitchen so I’m trying to sell as many cakes and deserts as possible to make that happen,” said Marla Mae.

We’ve also learned that there is another woman from Pittsburgh, Mary Jo Dowling, who will be on the show next week!